The TR-17 automatic mail address reader and sorter read not only three-digit and five-digit postal codes but also domestic addresses written in kanji characters so that mail items could be sorted by delivery routes of individual postal delivery workers. The first TR-17 system was delivered to the Adachi Post Office in 1989 and the second system to the Kyobashi Post Office the following year.
Sorting by post office [Note 1] had been automated with the automatic postal code reading technology implemented on the TR-3 and the TR-4 and later improvements to the technology. But sorting by delivery route [Note 2] still had to be done manually. For the TR-17, Toshiba developed a technology that recognized more than 2,000 kanji characters, both handwritten and printed, which enabled automated sorting of mail items by delivery route.
The basic specifications of the TR-17 were as follows:
- Able to recognize more than 2,000 kanji characters, both handwritten and printed, as well as hiragana characters, katakana characters, letters, numbers, and symbols
- Able to read prefectures, municipalities, some districts (district, block, and house number), and names of large complexes
- Able to process 20,000 mail items per hour through a six-stage pipeline process
- Used the multiple similarity method and outline structure matching to recognize characters
- 150 sorting slots
Note 1: Post office sorting: sorting submitted mail items to the destination post offices
Note 2: Delivery route sorting: sorting mail items to individual delivery routes